There is no doubt that, as a marketing manager or CMO, you have received emails extolling the virtues of digital and content marketing to build your business and improve your lead generation.
However, for many industrial and manufacturing companies, taking the step and incorporating digital marketing into your marketing mix is often met with institutional resistance. How can digital tactics and strategies used by trendy fashion companies work in such a unique and long-cycle sales process?
For most industrial and manufacturing companies, the objective is to generate high-quality leads that convert to sales through the customer acquisition cycle. B2C marketing metrics are not the same as B2B. Since manufacturers and other types of industrial companies sell to other B2B companies or B2C manufacturing companies, the sales cycle can range from eight weeks, eight months or even a year. Therefore, the marketing tactics and strategies are different. Some leads are hot and ready to buy while other times they are mid-cycle and need more nurturing. The solution: integrated digital marketing to ensure a study, consistent lead flow. Building strong buyer relationships during the sales cycle, the integrated marketing needs to be personal, educational, and frequent, so your business remains top of mind.
A strategic and cost-efficient marketing campaign for industrial and manufacturing companies at a minimum must include the following to capture customers with a long acquisition cycle:
- Partner with an experienced marketing agency that understands the nuances between B2B and B2C sales cycles.
- Utilizing available in-house data from your CRM system, define and categorize the different B2B buyer personas to better understand the different audiences your company has.
- Implement a CRM system that classifies and nurtures leads once they become engaged regardless of source (phone call to your in-house sales team, email inquiry, whitepaper or line sheet download, business card exchange at a tradeshow)
- Communicate with the sales manager and provide insights needed to pursue a sale.
- Advertising in industry standard online and print directories, publications, and their e-blasts.
- Consistent trade show appearances where your target audiences can engage with your brand.
- A proactive sales team actively prospecting on the ground, in person, on the phone, and through email.
While these tactics are still useful in this increasingly digital marketplace, they are no longer enough to remain competitive. There are only so many industry trade shows to attend yearly, only several strong industry publications to place our ad in. Also, many directories are now flooded with every type of provider or service option meaning your company becomes lost in the crowd.
Since the B2B marketplace continues to evolve at a rapid pace, an increasing number of manufacturing companies have begun to rethink their marketing mix and incorporate digital channels into their marketing mix.
How Can Digital Marketing Help Manufacturing and Industrial Companies?
Depending on your budget, existing marketing resources, and internal resources and support, three central digital marketing areas need to be addressed first to build the foundation for long-term results. These three areas are: the marketing platform, driving relevant website traffic, and lead nurturing.
1) The Marketing Platform
The marketing platform includes the channels your company currently owns and can manage directly. For most industrial and manufacturing companies, these include your website, your Content Management System (CMS), your online catalogs, eCommerce systems such as Shopify or Magento, your CRM system and customer database, and any other system that supports your files and ultimately your marketing efforts.
The marketing platform is first because without a strong foundation your marketing efforts will suffer over the long-term. While technology is always evolving, a robust platform foundation enables your company to grow with technology without having to start from scratch with every new piece of software. Think of it from a manufacturing line point of view – it is like trying to run new parts on old machinery. A skilled machine operator can produce something, but whether the component can meet tolerances or other quality specs, the final product will be inferior at best.
Your website needs to be fully optimized to handle the marketing campaigns you and your agency plan to execute. At a minimum this means:
- A clean, responsive website that works well on desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. One market survey revealed that 20% of all industrial website traffic is derived from mobile devices, so building a website that is responsive is part of a strong foundation.
- Relevant, SEO optimized original content that clearly defines what you do, your unique selling proposition (USP), and how your company differentiates itself from your competitors. Articulating the benefits of your goods and services to the visitors of your website is vital.
- Message matching – now that you have articulated your USP, the benefits of your products, and other brand messaging, it is time to reinforce your brand message with high-quality, relevant photographs and video excluding anything proprietary. (This same rule applies to any print collateral you have as well)
A good website is a foundation that will allow your company to execute your digital marketing campaign successfully. If the proper budget is not allocated and is not built correctly, the quality of your future marketing campaigns will suffer and you will find yourself investing in a new website year after year. With a strong foundation to start with, your website can grow and morph as your business grows and technology evolves.
In addition to the structure, content, and visuals of your site, you need the resources in place to capture and hold your B2B audience’s attention. They are at some stage of the research process and providing them with valuable and useful information to help them take the next step in the customer acquisition process includes:
- ISO Certifications and other industry-specific certifications
- Case studies highlighting your industrial company’s capabilities and how your services and products provided a solution for your customer.
- Product guides, catalogs, line sheets, and other educational resources to further educate the future or current customer.
Your digital marketing platform is the engine that will drive your business growth, drive your customer retention, and become an industry resource. The combination of a strong, responsive website with relevant SEO optimized content, visual message matching and tailored marketing materials like product guides and line sheets, will drive relevant website traffic, capture more leads, and convert those leads to customers.
2) SEO Is More Than Driving Relevant Website Traffic
Once the marketing foundation is built and the machine is optimized for digital marketing, the next step is driving relevant website traffic. Your industrial company needs to get buyers, or those responsible for making purchasing decisions, to your website and not the sites of your competitors to engage with your content and inquire about your services, products, and capabilities.
Several digital marketing channels are well suited for industrial manufacturers to drive targeted traffic:
- Search Engine Optimization – One would be surprised by how much organic traffic is available in manufacturing or industrial spaces and how few of your competitors are doing the hard, daily work needed to rank for industry specific, relevant, high-traffic keywords. Page titles, Meta Descriptions, Alt-Tags, Schema, and other optimizations will make a huge difference in your website traffic. Just a small investment in SEO will start driving organic traffic in just a few months.
- Google AdWords – In the new digital landscape, SEO in most cases is not enough. Companies need to fight for every piece of real-estate available to them online to remain top of mind with buyers. Paid search is highly effective when strategically optimized, executed, and targeted. Relevant ad copy is just the beginning, the more you can refine the campaigns to the types of solutions your company provides, the more qualified sales prospect you will attract. Also, utilizing Sitelinks, Structured Snippets, and other extensions help your company provide additional information at no cost while gaining more digital real-estate on your competitors.
- Content Marketing – Organizations like GE, Xerox, Parker Hannifin Corp, and Microsoft all use different forms of content marketing to reach their audiences through relevant, educational, and solution driven content. From B2B blogs to webinars, to e-books, YouTube videos, to podcasts or whitepapers, solution-driven content marketing increases sales, improves customer loyalty, and provides long-term cost savings through evergreen content. Content marketing is one of most significant drivers of direct, organic, and paid web traffic and directly impacts your overall SEO. Without a strategic content strategy, your inbound and outbound marketing will suffer and ultimately your lead generation. Manufacturing and industrial multi-channel content marketing is the future.
- Email Marketing – Email marketing is still one of the effective channels for digital marketing. Utilizing your CRM system and segmenting your e-mail marketing lists based on preset criteria, your company can re-engage with dormant customers, promote your current or new products and services, or follow up with future customers currently in the customer acquisition phase to drive sales and B2B brand awareness.
Integrating your marketing, digital marketing, and PR Targeting your prospects where they are spending their time and doing their research will generate quality website traffic, emails, phone calls, and landing page form submissions on your new website.
3) Nurturing New Prospects Through The Customer Acquisition Cycle
Manufacturers and industrial companies alike continue to invest in digital marketing despite the long sales cycle. While B2C companies benefit from short-term digital marketing efforts, the B2B sales cycles can often take months from bid, proposal, and closing a big project. That’s why Stage 3 is so vital. Utilizing your strong marketing foundation, your website, your content, and your email marketing, you now have a structure in place to begin nurturing sales leads to keep prospects engaged despite the long B2B sales cycle. Your lead nurturing marketing program should include:
- Regularly scheduled tailored emails that are automatically sent to sales leads based on their position in the sales cycle.
- Automated emails sent to leads who download a piece of your content, sign up for one of your webinars, or request a quote via your website.
- Automated emails sent to people who requested a quote but now have gone dormant.
- Regular emails sent to those who signed up to receive the latest news, updates, social media, and content from your company.
Providing prospects regular touch points through content updates to warm sales leads and monthly emails to colder sales leads, your company can begin to build a sales pipeline and keep people engaged through the long B2B customer acquisition process. Remaining top of mind is vital and integrating a lead nurturing program keeps your company top of mind when the time comes to request a proposal and quote.
Strategic Digital Marketing For Manufacturers
Digital marketing is not only effective for manufacturers, it is able to level the playing field enabling your company to compete with much larger companies in your industry. By building a strong marketing foundation with a website that is SEO optimized, through strategic content with a variety of traffic sources, and a leading nurturing program, your company can become the expert within your industry and dominate your competitors.